Laclede County farmer explains why Border Collies were an excellent addition to his farm

Dr. Art Bryant is a man of strong convictions, an important characteristic for a Laclede County cattleman and veterinarian who has worked with Border Collies for over 25 years. “I like cows, Border Collies and red heads,” Art Bryant said while casting a smile in Nancy’s direction, his red-headed wife. She stayed busy answering his constantly ringing office phone.
“I retired from the veterinary practice that I had in St. Roberts, Mo., from 1971 to 1990 to this farm where I was raised. It was a dairy farm back then, with Holsteins. Today, we raise commercial calves and cows and background some yearlings and I use dogs to do it all.”
Retirement did not agree with Art and in 1994, he opened what he calls his ‘retirement practice’, keeping veterinarian office hours on Monday and Thursday on his farm off the main highway between Richland, Mo., and Stoutland, Mo. He declined to say exactly how many cows, calves or acres he manages on a daily basis. “The Lord has been good to us and we have been very fortunate. We’ll just leave it at that.”
When it comes to border collies, however, Dr. Art Bryant is more than willing to share. “Sally was without a doubt, the smartest dog I ever owned with the biggest vocabulary, 50-70 words that she understood. Before Sally, I tried working cattle with horses and that was better than on foot, but my wife and kids thought there ought to be a better way. When I bought Sally in 1985, a 3-year-old Border Collie for $1,000, everybody thought I was mad. Two to 3 years later, I realized she was cheapest thing I ever bought on the farm. I’ve probably raised and trained over 100 dogs in the years since.
“Border Collies are workaholics. They are all about pleasing their owners and they will literally, work themselves to death. They bond to one person and they learn twice as fast as other dogs. I’ve had bird dogs, retrievers and others over the years. Border Collies are not easy to train because they will outsmart you, if you’re not careful. Training them involves a lot of running, catching, undoing and fence fixing.”
He continued, “I don’t sell them for pets. First of all, they are dogs, working dogs and not our children. You want to be humane to them but they are not our equals. That’s not what the Bible tells us although I’ve had Border Collies that mind better than any child!”
“The problem is that as working dogs, you have to keep them busy. If you leave them alone, they’ll tear up your house.”
Dr. Bryant went on to point out that Border Collies as a breed are recognized by the American Border Collie Association but not by other organizations like the American Kennel Club. “Because we don’t select for color, conformation or size, they don’t want to recognize the breed. What you look for in a good working dog is brains,” he explained. From 1990 to 1996, he successfully showed Border Collies as part of the Red River Cattle Dog Association, along the Oklahoma-Texas state line.
“Personally, I like the slick-haired black medium-sized dog with white points. The short-haired dogs stay cooler in the summer and don’t track as much mud into the truck.
“People have to re-learn how to work cattle with a dog. They fetch or bring the cattle. Nothing is ever going to get away from a Border Collie. Cows can’t outrun them like they can us. A Border Collie will put a running cow into the line and bring them back to a walk. There’s no running and no chasing involved.”
Over the years, Dr. Art Bryant has had many other great dogs like Butch, Professor Trip (named after one of his mother’s school administrators) and even a Lee Harvey Oswald, who was the meanest Border Collie ever. And he will always have many wonderful dog stories to tell.


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